Sunday, April 5, 2009

Intro to Libertarianism

I hate politics, which might seem strange for somebody who writes a political blog. But I also hate that I have to take out the trash, and yet I do it anyway. Why? Because it must be done.

But I have a true passion for economics, which unfortunately gets beat up and left in a ditch by politics quite frequently. Underlying all politics is economics. You could describe all government action in terms of economics. Economics explains why we need governments, why they operate the way they do, and what governments are doing wrong.

The branch of economics that deals with politics is called political economy, and it has its various schools of thought (public choice theory, various kinds of Keynesianism, etc.). I fall into the libertarian category, although libertarianism (a misunderstood school of thought in a misunderstood science) is less of a political ideology and more of an apolitical ideology. Keynesians, protectionists, mercantilists, special interests, socialists, communists, etc., all have some idea about what the government ought to be doing, how it ought to spend the tax-payers money, how it needs to interfere with peoples' affairs, and so on. Libertarianism provides a rationale for why the government should not be interfering with peoples' affairs, for why it ought to be spending as little taxpayer money as possible, and why it doesn't need to "do" nearly as much as many people seem to think.

I should point out that there is a difference between politically-minded libertarians cranks on the one hand (the people who campaign for legalized child prostitution, borderline-anarchy, etc.) and the more pragmatic economically-minded libertarians (such as Hayek, Smith, Friedman, Becker, etc.) who hold to various policies not necessarily for moral reasons or for the sake of "rights," but for pragmatic reasons. They hold to libertarianism because it works. Libertarianism is pretty close to what used to be called "liberalism."

Libertarianism, contrary to what you may have heard, is not necessarily atheistic or socially liberal. Many religious, socially conservative individuals subscribe to libertarianism. The idea that there is a conflict between social conservatives on the one hand and libertarians on the other is a false dichotomy. The real conflict is between those who understand economics and those who don't. And I'm sad to say, most of my fellow conservative Christians do not understand economics any better than the average person--which is to say their understanding is downright crappy. But crappy is average. It ain't call the "dismal science" for nothing.

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